Backus hearing closes
Decision expected by November
September 11, 2003
An evidentiary hearing for convicted murderer Michael Backus came to a close Thursday with a rebuttal from Backus’ attorney, who said the lawyer who represented Backus in his 1995 murder trial made multiple errors while defending Backus.
“When (Leonard Davies) tried this case in 1995, he was not an effective attorney,” said Nancy Holton, the attorney representing Backus in the current hearing.
In her rebuttal, Holton claimed that testimony Davies provided Wednesday should not be trusted.
“You don’t know what’s true and what’s untrue. (Davies) talks out of both sides of his mouth,” Holton told Judge Robert Brown, who heard the case in Routt County District Court this week.
“It’s all about Leonard Davies. It’s all about his career, and he doesn’t want any black marks on his record,” Holton said. She then said that the case should really be about Backus and about whether an innocent man is in jail for a crime he did not commit because of his previous attorney’s ineffective counsel.
Backus is serving a life sentence for the 1993 murder of Steamboat Springs businessman Gerald Boggs and is in court seeking to have his sentence set aside under the claim that Davies counsel was ineffective.
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In May 1995, Backus and his then-girlfriend, Jill Coit, were convicted of first-degree murder and were sentenced to life without parole for killing Boggs, who had an annulled marriage with Coit at the time of his death.
Coit had been married to at least seven other men and was a prime suspect in the shooting death of one husband, William C. Coit, in Houston in 1972. Boggs’ murder case was dubbed the “Black Widow” case because of Coit’s history.
Closing arguments in Backus’ hearing were presented Wednesday, but Brown decided to hear Holton’s rebuttal Thursday morning.
During the rebuttal, Holton said that Davies did not visit Backus enough while he was in jail and that he did not use the strongest defense that he could have, which would have been an antagonistic strategy against Coit to separate Backus from Coit.
On Wednesday, Davies testified that he had tried to convince Backus to use an antagonistic defense, but that his client refused.
“He made it clear to me over and over in a forceful way that he … was not going to allow me to present any (evidence) that suggested that (Coit) was the guilty party,” Davies said in court Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James gave evidence contrary to that, saying that Davies did make enough visits and did use the best strategy that he could, under the circumstances.
Holton also argued that Backus’ alibi for the time of the murder — that he was camping with Coit in Kelly Flats during the two days surrounding the murder — was evidence that Backus did not murder Boggs.
Backus has maintained that the only time during those two days when he was not with Coit was when he took a three- or four-hour hike on the morning of Oct. 21.
“It shows what Mr. Backus is saying is credible because if he wanted in some way to get her there, he would have expanded the time frame,” Holton said. “He tells the truth.”
Holton said that Davies had several conflicts of interest in the 1995 trial, including that the judge had threatened to make Davies pay for a mistrial if a mistrial took place, and that Backus would fire Davies if he used an antagonistic defense.
Holton referred to previous cases, some of which St. James had used the day before, in an effort to show that she had fulfilled the requirements of the law surrounding ineffective assistance of counsel.
Brown adjourned the case by 9:30 a.m. and said that he would have a decision by November at the latest.